Cultural Gap, Mental Crevice, and Creative Imagination: Vision, Cultural Gap, Mental Crevice, and Creative

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    Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology

    ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rfap20

    Cultural Gap, Mental Crevice, and Creative Imagination: Vision, Analogy, and Memory in Cross-Cultural Chiasms

    Shigemi Inaga

    To cite this article: Shigemi Inaga (2020): Cultural Gap, Mental Crevice, and Creative Imagination: Vision, Analogy, and Memory in Cross-Cultural Chiasms, Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology, DOI: 10.1080/20539320.2019.1672305

    To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/20539320.2019.1672305

    Published online: 09 Jun 2020.

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  • Cultural Gap, Mental Crevice, and Creative Imagination: Vision, Analogy, and Memory in Cross-Cultural Chiasms Shigemi Inaga

    International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan; Department of Japanese Studies, Postgraduate University for Advanced Studies, Hayama, Kyoto, Japan

    ABSTRACT This paper aims at investigating how the cross-cultural chasm can be meaningfully connected with the discussion on creativity and imagination. In order to examine cross-cultural creativity and ima- gination, several basic assumptions in the Western tradition must be reexamined and put into question. To begin with, the translat- ability and equivalence of the notions of “creation” and “imagina- tion” are examined in the cross-cultural context in terms of the “gaps” in terminology itself. Following on from this, the paper proposes several working hypotheses with regard to these themes. The paper takes up two topics that provide essential metaphors: first, climatology or meteorology, and, second, tectonics or geolo- gical imagination. The paper then examines the dichotomy between digital and analogical devices and questions the status quo of information technology and its theoretical foundation. The rehabilitation of the virtual capacity in manual operation comes into focus in order to reveal the limits of verbal information. The importance of the chiasm or void in networking is also put forward. One purpose of the present paper is to address the question of how the gap between Eastern terminology and Western thinking in the realm of creative imagination can be bridged, despite the semantic chiasm and lack of equivalence that divides them.

    KEYWORDS Cultural gap; mental crevice; creative imagination; digital vs. analogue; meteorology & geology; manual vs. digitus; Toshihiko Izutsu; Tenshin Kakuzô Okakura

    1. Translation and creativity: chasms in cross-cultural migration

    This paper aims at investigating how the cross-cultural chasm can be meaningfully connected with the discussion on creativity and imagination. To examine cross-cultural creativity and imagination, several working hypotheses must be examined and some of the basic prerequisites must be reexamined.

    1.1. Gap in terminology

    Such terms as “creativity” and “imagination” have their own lexicological roots in Western philosophical tradition and cannot be used in a cross-cultural perspective without taking that framework into account. It is indeed an open question whether or not the translated terms for “creativity”創造性 and “imagination”想像力in the cultural

    CONTACT Shigemi Inaga marinaga747ked@yahoo.co.jp

    JOURNAL OF AESTHETICS AND PHENOMENOLOGY https://doi.org/10.1080/20539320.2019.1672305

    © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

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  • sphere of the Chinese ideogram are comprehended with the same acceptance and semantic limitations. In other words, there is naturally a gap separating these imported Western ideas (and their literally translated terms) from the indigenous Chinese (suppo- sedly corresponding) notions. And whether or not to recognize the equivalence between the two categories is more a political question than a purely epistemological problem of definition.1 To say the least, the notion of “creation” in the West has been for a long time attributed solely to God in Christian theology, and it was only during the eighteenth century that Creation with a capital “C” was little by little redefined as a capability with a small “c” attributable to human individuals. The West is far from monolithic. The English term “creativity” existed already in the mid-nineteenth century, but “créativité” in French dates only from around 1965.2

    During the eighteenth century, the status of “imagination” as an aesthetic category was also discussed in relation to the repositioning of human “creativity.” In Immanuel Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason), Einbildungskraft (imagination) as a Kategorie of human Erkentniss (knowledge) was located between Sinnlichkeit (sensibility) and Verstand (understanding) so as to connect the two, but it was not as highly appreciated as it was in the case of Goethe. This definition by Kant is of course highly problematical if compared with Islamic, Indian, or Chinese traditions. However, in calling them simply “Oriental traditions,” we should be careful to ask: what exactly are we referring to if we do not specify the period, school of thought, or author? And what is the epistemological ground for such a casual and baseless comparison?3 Without raising unanswerable questions about the cross-cultural translatability of specific semiophemes,4

    let us satisfy ourselves by stating that such a translinguistic comparison of terminology is at best operational in a specific circumstance and in terms of a particular interest and purpose shared in a determined aim of the philological survey.5

    1.2. Gap in articulation

    Beneath the gap in terminology lies the gap in articulating the semantic field. It has to do with both vertical classificatory categories (encompassing upper categories and subdivid- ing lower categories) and neighboring terminologies with which a term shares and subdivides one horizontal surface of the semantic field. Semantic overlapping or lacunae, as well as category mistakes in grouping, constantly and inevitably happen in interdisci- plinary translations. Such (horizontal) semantic fractures and (vertical) crashing in categories are usually not welcome, especially in academic discussions.6

    However, when it comes to “creativity” and “imagination,” defining and determin- ing supposedly “universally valid terminology” in a solid and unshakable categorical framework of a particular language (e.g. English) would result in losing sight of the cultural diversity of the issue. It is my working hypothesis that the gaps in categories or fractures in terminologies in transcultural transactions will serve as a key to search for new and not yet explored dimensions of human creativity and imagination.7 We must take the gaps in Weltanschauung into account, so as to cope with cultural diversity in terms of creativity and imagination. A Freudian model of unconsciousness and a Saussurian model of language must be reexamined in transcultural context. For this purpose, I would like to propose meteorological as well as earth-tectonic models in the final part of this paper.8

    2 S. INAGA

  • 1.3. Gap in Weltanschauung

    An illustration of a gap in Weltanschauung is provided by the German intellectual diaspora under the Nazi regime and its aftermath. In the field of art historical research, one of the most typical and problematical cases is the methodological shift that occurred around the German Jew, Aby Warburg (1866–1929), the founder of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg, established in Hamburg in 1926. Eminent scholars like Ernst Cassirer, Fritz Saxl, and Erwin Panofsky are greatly indebted to this collection with its idiosyncratic classification system. After the founder’s death, the library was transferred to London, to prevent its being confiscated or destroyed by the Nazi regime.9

    Warburg’s ambition was to grasp (ergreifen) the dynamics of images. How does the image create itself? How does it propagate and resurrect itself and survive (überleben)? Through his studies of esoteric and mystical images from the Italian Renaissance, he observed the Nachleben (life after death) of the imagery of antiquity, its archetypal resurrection, which he interpreted as “symptoms” of primordial human emotions. Images carry the traces and imprints of memories deeply imbedded in the layers of psyché from the immemorial past. The forms and figures of antiquity recurred as phantoms (like the “retour des morts” or “des revenants”) in the Renaissance by taking determined shapes as containers of a particular pathos (w